Popular no More
Admittedly, Greece’s superstardom in the hierarchy of the global news landscape has all but faded. The financial institutions will occasionally heap praise on the resiliency of the state reminding Europeans how their flawless plan has helped the country back on its feet, but other than these brief mementos, silence has generally been the rule. It might then come as a surprise to outside observers that amid this ostensible peace, Greece is in point of fact heading towards one of the most turbulent summers of its recent history. This space will thus be devoted to an attempt to delineate a number of blazing topics, a few which rarely if at all make it past non-local media, evaluate our imminent ‘exit’ from the bailout heaven, examine the political scene rising (or perhaps stubbornly persisting) as a result of austerity, as well as shed light into what lies in the shadows of the future.
Austerity, austerity, austerity: A little background for the uninitiated
As noted before numerous times by much more knowledgeable political analysts, the European elite, along with their puppets walking the halls of the financial institutions, never really wanted ‘their money’ back. Greece was plainly used as a scapegoat to scare equally weak EU economies from daring to come up with their own rational proposals for coming out of potential debtocracy. We were essentially the perfect country to make a lesson of: our parliament is infiltrated by a large number of corrupt nepotists, meaning nobody could argue with the fact that our current predicament is indeed our fault. Perhaps more importantly, we happen to reside in a jolly, relaxed and extremely beautiful part of the planet, with lands where few elites would mind buying off for 10% or less of its actual (a thing of fiction in current Greece) market value. The 2015 fiasco was just a continuation of the treatment given to Argentina about a decade back: It is your debt, but because your debt is to us, you will pay us back our way (not via help from Venezuela, or in the case of Greece from China), so that you can serve as an example to the future infidels that dare question the IMF’s decisions.
Long story short, austerity has predictably failed. High taxes have obstructed investment and kicked out successful businesses; jobs in the private sector are meager, while the public sector career offers little more than a doctorate in the intricate boringness of bureaucracy. Greece does not export. The few young high-expertise people that elect to stay back and start their own thing are effectively doing so at the expense of their pockets. But it’s all fine! We have a primary budget surplus of 4%. As you would have thought, this particular statistic was one of the ‘musts’ presented within the last adjustment program targets. This might vaguely remind some readers of Season 4 of “The Wire”. A Baltimore police unit had just come to the realization that dead human bodies were hidden in abandoned compartments, but this discovery coincided only a few weeks before the crime stats were meant to be released. As the mayor had promised a steep decrease in homicide rate, a back and forth parody of whether to reveal this discovery ensued. Similarly, European media is currently promoting this 4% budget surplus as the pinnacle of its success story; the exposure of 20 or so economic statistics that actually matter and are approaching near figurative death shall have to wait until the program is over, when responsibility will no longer rest on our saviors. Which brings us to the next point:
Same Shit, Different Name
The ironically named current ‘relief package’ aka the third and last bailout is coming to its conclusion this June. Shocking news: Greece is reportedly not in the comfortable position that Portugal and Ireland were after their respective bailouts ended in the recent past. As a result, reports have surfaced that although Greece will thankfully not sign an absolute record breaking fourth bailout, the benevolent European masters will simply monitor our financial situation through what is being called supervision. Considering there is virtually zero economists or government officials who genuinely believe Greece is now ready to move on independent, and the irrevocable truth that the same officials who were adamant about the apparent impossibility of debt relief have not changed their mind, this essentially means that Greece will likely continue to be in debtors’ prison, but with the convenience of labeling the ‘help’ we receive as supervision rather than bailout.
Current Political Climate and the Absence of Riots (??)
It is at this point beyond certain that barring some sort of groundbreaking political scandal, the center-right of New Democracy will be winning the next elections whenever these happen. Syriza sold out, and a considerable number of its prior ministers have already formed their own small parties. New Democracy is offering the Holy neoliberal Trinity of freedom, meritocracy and competitiveness. They supposedly sport a fresh lineup of politicians who are ready to move on from what Greeks call ‘customer relations’ between politicians and citizens, a social scheme they helped start in the first place back in the golden days, and ambitiously aim to repatriate successful Greeks earning their bread abroad. One of the greatest paradoxes of the last few years is reconciling New Democracy’s low taxation proposals and ‘investment in investment’ dreams and the fact that they are the main pro-referendum (which is what enforces these high taxes in the first place) force within the country. Judging from their vague answers within parliament or TV panels, the main argument of New Democracy is that because they are much more experienced and have better connections than their Syriza counterparts, they would have succeeded in securing a more advantageous relief package. This is of course not necessarily a lie, as you might remember that the IMF does not truly want their money back, they want loyal colleagues who will say yes to everything they ask. When a country’s government avoids asking inconvenient questions, they are very likely to throw them a bone for being a good dog.
So anyway, how come resistance is at an all-time low? Where are the anarchists and the violent riots that put us on the global revolution map? Right wingers often attribute it to Syriza being in government, as they tend to generally equate anarchists, communists and European leftists as one united dogma, now that they are in power, why rebel?. Moderates tend to think that the passion for revolt has quieted down in the country seeing as the force that supposedly emitted hope sold out, so now we are all doomed. Leftists will probably say that the groups that they personally know only engaged in peaceful protests and not violent riots, and that the city wars of years past were always fuelled and provoked by fascists and police in order to make the anarchists look bad. I personally do not fully subscribe to either theory, but do have to concede that the relative absence of collective insurgence certainly points to the disillusionment and bleak outlook of the global 99% landscape. I also think there is a socio-psychological factor in play, namely the direct interaction with refugees and their plight. The narrative “How does our predicament even compare to theirs” is one that cannot be entirely dismissed. A significant number of collectives are directing their energy to more meaningful mobilizations and offering help to people in immediate need, which is probably more productive than rebelling for change which is, whether we like it or not, far out of the reach of the common people as recent history has taught.
Whether it is the normal course of a fragmented economy, or a silence that is prone to sudden combustion, at the moment there is no prominent ‘language’ in which to communicate the collective injustice experience. Such language is limited to the voluntary involvement in refugee aid initiatives, little-known solidarity collectives, as well as our incessant drive to have fun and enjoy the good weather and nightlife.
A Looming War?
A few of you might be astonished by the fact that Greece is in dangerous brink of a serious conflict. Popular media outside of Greece is doing well to hide this, precisely because they want nothing to do with it, although the involvement of countries in institutions like NATO and EU precisely dictates that they should. To summarize, Turkey’s dictator president wants a piece of the oil action in the Aegean Sea and makes headlines mocking conventions and treaties agreed upon about 100 years back (like the Lausanne Treaty of Peace), declaring everything is open to discussion. He has pilots flying Turkish planes over Greek islands to tease, he detains Greek soldiers and asks them to be exchanged with Turkish asylum seekers residing in Greece to hide from his vengeance. There are minor episodes nearly every day, and the distance NATO has kept, asking the two countries to ‘settle their own differences’ is at the very least disturbing. Erdogan is a scary force to be reckoned with, and a direct one so much that popular sentiment would regard the threat of an imminent war larger than our economy disaster, or the social issues arising with the influx of huge numbers of refugees that is only going to rise following the unrest in the Middle East. As the Kurdish state recently found out the hard way, he is a hypocritical mafioso who will stop at nothing to promote his imperialist agenda. It may be difficult to fathom, but extremely serious episodes are possibly only months away.
What to Make of all this- A dreary summary of the days to come
So here goes the story: Greece is likely entering an era where we will essentially still be under debtocracy, but because our obedience has to be rewarded in the eyes of Europe we shall call it supervision rather than bailout. We are welcoming nearly 10000 new refugees every coming month, lacking the very basic provisions and any sort of an infrastructure to actually assist these souls. It is extremely likely that these numbers will rise following Erdogan’s threats to create a pathway for these poor people to get to Europe as a punishment for the continent’s strong stance against his emperor demands. We are heading towards a war, all whilst our military spending has been cut to ridiculous amounts. Young people are fleeing the country at a rate that could soon parallel the refugees coming in from the Middle East. We will be soon reverting back to traditional New Democracy. On top of all that, people still park on the pavement, suffocating the right of the disabled to get out of their homes, they still smoke indoors, and they will still swear at you if you drive your car in a manner displeasing to them. We have a leftist government which has failed to do anything of even symbolic value; legalize same-sex marriage, marijuana, or at least establish a schism between church and state. Greece remains one of the most beautiful and vibrant places on the planet, but it seems like it will be run by oligarchs and opportunists for the rest of its days.